Patterns of prey selection by wolves in Denali National Park, Alaska

Occasional Publication of the Canadian Circumpolar Institute 35

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Edited by:
Ludwig N. Carbyn , Steven H. Fritts , and Dale R. Seip


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The patterns of selection by wolves (Canis lupus) preying on moose (Alces alces), caribou (Rangifer tarandus), and Dall sheep (Ovis dalli) in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska were studied from 1986 through early 1992. Wolves and their prey are legally protected or relatively unharvested in most of the area, and wolf numbers doubled during the study. Based on remains of 294 moose, 225 caribou, and 63 sheep, wolves killed calves and old adults disproportionately, and individuals with low marrow fat, jaw necrosis, or arthritis. Seasonal trends in proportions of various species, ages, and sex of kills were found. During the winters following winters of deep snowfalls, wolves greatly increased the proportion of caribou cows and calves taken. We conclude that in a natural system, wolves can survive on vulnerable prey even during moderate weather, and when snowfall exceeds average, they can respond by switching to newly vulnerable prey and greatly increasing their numbers.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Conference Paper
Publication Subtype:
Conference Paper
Patterns of prey selection by wolves in Denali National Park, Alaska
Series title:
Occasional Publication of the Canadian Circumpolar Institute
Series number:
Year Published:
Canadian Circumpolar Institute, University of Alberta
Publisher location:
Edmonton, AB
Contributing office(s):
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
13 p.
Larger Work Type:
Larger Work Subtype:
Conference publication
Larger Work Title:
Ecology and conservation of wolves in a changing world: Proceedings of the second North American symposium on wolves: Occasional Publication 35
First page:
Last page:
Conference Title:
Second North American Symposium on Wolves
Conference Location:
Edmonton, AB
Conference Date:
25-27 August 1992